REVIEW: John Baumann’s “Country Shade” is Nostalgia


Nostalgia has always been an enormous part of country music. Whether it’s for a hometown left behind, a family member long gone, or losing THAT GIRL, happy memories of the past are what tinge so many songs with melancholy. The latest release from Texan John Baumann, Country Shade, is fairly dripping with nostalgia for a simpler time gone by, while also offering a healthy dose of optimism for the future.

The album begins with the wistful “The Country Doesn’t Sound the Same,” which mourns both the dearth of good ol’ country music on the radio and the encroaching suburbs choking out the bucolic lifestyle. Juxtaposing “back when steel and fiddle had their time to interplay” with “a hardhat crew laying tar up by the gate” and dropping in some dobro and a harmonica, Baumann gives us the type of country(s) he longs for. Baumann sings more about the geographical kind of country in “Homesick for the Heartland,” a tune set on acoustic guitar and piano with lyrics bent on returning to a simpler place, “back when there was space to wander.”

Like any good modern-day record, though, there’s space for partying. “Sunday Morning Going Up” portrays a happier weekend than that found in the Kris Kristofferson classic. With a tune that recalls upbeat mid-90s rock (think Hootie and the Blowfish) and gives the song a Sunday Funday vibe, Baumann sings, “I’ve been tied up for too long, high time I come unwound.” And there are heartsick love songs, too. “Daylight’s Burning” delves into the pain of, well, waiting for the pain to go away – “It hurts, it’s gonna hurt for a while/There ain’t a way to skip a couple minutes.” But Baumann, with typical country wisdom, urges the listener to move on: “There’s a reason that your windshield is bigger than your rearview.”

Time a-wastin’ (and avoiding that pitfall) is actually a consistent theme on Country Shade. “Next Ride Around the Sun,” which begins with a boost from amusement park sound effects, urges us to enjoy the fun stuff (dancing with the wife, beers with the old man) because tomorrow isn’t a promise – “As you age, time is gathering speed.” “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” calls for forgiveness before time expires. And “Second Wind,” the biggest country anthem on the album, touts hard work over idle hands, even when it’s difficult – “And pray I catch that feeling/I used to know back when…I never knew I’d ever/Need a second wind.” It turns out that nostalgia isn’t a match for forward motion.

Country Shade was produced by Justin Pollard, mixed by Mark Dearnley, recorded by Jeff Saenz and mastered by Don Cobb. Additional songwriting credits go to Pollard, Aaron Raitiere and Drew Kennedy. Musicians on the album include Pollard (drums and percussion), Saenz (harmonica and electric guitar), Doug Pettibone (pedal steel, acoustic and electric guitars, Dobro and mandolin), Aden Bubeck (electric and upright bass), Nick Gardner (acoustic and electric guitars and mandolin), Michael Ramos (piano and organ), Nate Coon (drums and percussion) and Wes Hightower (background vocals).

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